Holocaust & Humanity Center Names 2024 Upstander Awards Winners

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Media Contact: Kara Driscoll, [email protected], 513-638-0508

In front of a crowd of more than 800 people at historic Union Terminal, the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center announced the winners of the 2024 Upstander Awards on Sunday evening.

Hosted by WLWT anchor Megan Mitchell joined by Emmy award-winning actress Debra Messing, the Upstander Awards recognize individuals in the region who use their character strengths to stand up for themselves and others — pursuing justice, both great and small, and inspiring others to do the same. Each award presented is named after a Holocaust survivor, World War II liberator, rescuer or upstander featured in the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center’s award-winning museum. Each award also recognizes a specific character strength used in the museum to describe upstander behavior.

These winners were chosen out of 27 finalists, who you can read about here. The finalists were selected out of hundreds of nominees in the region.

Nonprofit Upstander of the Year: Whitney Austin

A fighter and survivor in every sense, Whitney Austin was shot 12 times as she entered the Fifth Third Bank headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 6, 2018. Since that tragic day, Austin has dedicated her life to preventing gun violence through data-driven, responsible gun ownership solutions. Whitney Austin founded the Whitney Strong Organization, which dedicated to reducing gun violence by promoting, advocating and supporting responsible gun ownership. “When you get the chance to see your family after facing death, something changes inside of you,” Whitney says. “And the only way I can make sense of it is to take this overwhelming sense of gratitude and turn it into something greater than me.”

Business Upstander of the Year: Joel Stone

Joel Stone is the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of the Private Bank for Fifth Third Bank’s Cincinnati Region, including Cincinnati, Dayton and Northern Kentucky. A true champion of Cincinnati’s arts and nonprofit organizations, Joel works tirelessly in his professional and volunteer leadership roles to strengthen and enhance the arts and cultural landscape of our region. Joel was a founding co-chair of the Holocaust & Humanity Center’s Business Beacons program, which connects Cincinnati’s corporate community with the Center to foster workplace and community cultures of upstanding. Everyone in nonprofit work in Cincinnati knows and appreciates Joel Stone, because Joel always finds a way to help.

Duke Energy Illuminator Award: Laura Brunner

The Duke Energy Illuminator Award recognizes a luminary in our community who is bringing light to a challenging issue. Laura has done just that in the area of affordable housing as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. For more than a decade, Laura has led The Port with her impassioned efforts to fix broken real estate in order to reduce wealth disparities, increase homeownership and grow manufacturing jobs. She gained national recognition in 2022 when she led the unprecedented effort to acquire 194 single-family homes from an out-of-town investor to keep the American dream of home ownership alive for many Cincinnatians. It’s a tough and often thankless job, but Laura is wholeheartedly committed to the important work of redevelopment and revitalization with a focus on equity and inclusion. 

Upstander Lifetime Achievement Award: Barbara Kellar

Barbara Kellar has been an indelible presence in the cultural landscape of Cincinnati for decades, tirelessly shaping the community’s perception of the arts. With over 44 years of dedicated volunteer service, she has become synonymous with championing the arts, youth, and education in the region. As the esteemed host of public television’s acclaimed program, SHOWCASE with Barbara Kellar, she brings insightful interviews that illuminate the diverse facets of the arts community. Through her engaging conversations, she not only highlights the talent and creativity within the region but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the arts among viewers. 

Barbara’s impact extends beyond the screen, as she has held pivotal positions within CET, earning accolades and recognition for her outstanding contributions. Her achievements include prestigious honors such as the President’s Award, the Ohio Broadcasting Award for Development, and the National Award for Excellence in Public Television Leadership. In recognition of her unwavering dedication, she was bestowed with the key to the City of Cincinnati and was honored at a gala in 2010 for her remarkable service spanning over four decades. Through her passion, vision, and tireless advocacy, Barbara Kellar continues to enrich the cultural fabric of Cincinnati, leaving an enduring legacy that inspires generations to embrace the transformative power of the arts. 

Upstander Legacy Award: Dick Weiland z”l

Dick Weiland, a towering figure in Cincinnati’s political and philanthropic circles, was renowned for his impassioned advocacy and unwavering commitment to civil rights. From his early days in Avondale to his death in January of last year at 93 years old, Weiland’s journey epitomized a lifelong dedication to equality and social justice. Dick was a formidable advocate, leveraging his extensive network to champion various causes. Beyond his professional endeavors, he marched in the iconic Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 and played a pivotal role in easing tensions following Cincinnati’s 1967 riots. His philanthropic efforts, directing millions towards Jewish and civic nonprofits and establishing endowments to combat antisemitism, showcased his profound commitment to uplifting marginalized groups. 

Despite battling declining health, Weiland remained an indefatigable force for change, serving on numerous boards and commissions and continuing to champion causes dear to him. His impact reverberated across Ohio, earning him induction into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2016 and recognition with the AJC Cincinnati’s Community Service Award. Dick Weiland’s legacy stands as a testament to the enduring power of activism and compassion, inspiring future generations to advocate for a more just and inclusive society. 


Hilda Rothschild Award for Spirituality: Sister Nancy Linenkugel 

Hilda Rothschild left her first year in university to flee antisemitism in Germany in 1933. In France, Hilda met her husband Ernest and studied with Maria Montessori — the Italian educator who developed the Montessori method. The couple had a daughter- Monique- whom Hilda carried on a perilous journey by foot across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. There, the family boarded a ship and made the five-week voyage to America—eventually settling in Cincinnati, where Hilda established the first Montessori teacher-training program in the country at Xavier University in 1965. She became known as the mother of the Montessori movement in America, which is grounded in student-led learning and mindfulness 

Sister Nancy Linenkugel has spent five decades in service to others in her vocation as a Franciscan nun, including roles as a hospital CEO, and college department chair and president. In the 1970’s, Sister Nancy taught 8th grade language arts at St. Ann’s School in Cincinnati. A lesson on the Diary of Anne Frank caught her students’ attention, and sparked questions she couldn’t answer. She leaned in with a spirit of curiosity, and wrote a letter seeking information about Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only member of the Frank family who survived the Holocaust. She continued to correspond with Otto until his death, and even made a trip to Switzerland to meet him. She says, “Now I can look back almost 50 years later, to say this was really something. A student’s questions started it, and if I hadn’t gone in that direction, this would probably not have happened. The student is important, and what the student has on his or her mind is important.” 

Irwin Hurley Award for Perspective: Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland 

Irwin Hurley grew up in Park Hills, Kentucky and was drafted into the Army in 1942. His strong sense of justice and fairness was shaped during his time as a Second Lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps during World War II.  At the time, the Army was segregated and all of the enlisted men in his Battalion were African American. In the summer of 1944, one of them was murdered by a bus driver for not sitting in the back of the bus. This experience fueled his passion for justice and equality, and he carried that perspective with him for the rest of his lifeAfter liberation, Irwin was among the first to care for those imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp.

Beth Silvers of Union Kentucky co-hosts a hit podcast with Sarah Stewart Holland of Paducah Kentucky that takes a different approach to news and politics. The long-time friends have different political views, but together they model commentary and conversation that prioritizes our shared humanity, grace, curiosity, and civic contribution. Together, Beth and Sarah have written two books and are sought-after speakers on communicating across divides. Beth says, “The fact that people listen to a podcast and then vote or run for office or reconnect with a relative after a falling out over the last election — the ripple effects are surprising and beautiful.”  

Dr. Josef Warkany Award for Honesty: Galadriel Stamm

Dr. Josef Warkany emigrated to the United States from Vienna in 1932 where he secured a staff position at the recently-established Research Foundation of Children’s Hospital here in Cincinnati. Following the Nazi’s annexation of Austria in 1938, Dr. Warkany received dozens of desperate requests from extended family members, friends, former colleagues, and even strangers looking to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. He helped where he could, securing affidavits for his mother and sister to come to the U.S. When stringent immigration requirements limited his ability to help others, Dr. Warkany acted as a liaison to connect those needing help with organizations or people that could aid in their rescue.  His son Steve later recalled that, “This was a painful, difficult subject that my father was reluctant to discuss.”  

Galadriel Stamm is the youngest board member of the Community Response Coalition of Kentucky Inc., which provides support to immigrants and refugees. As the grandchild of two immigrants who fled Europe during the Holocaust, she is passionate about helping today’s immigrants find safety and community. She says her strength of honesty helps her advise those seeking asylum for their families who have weak legal cases. “To help ensure that no predatory lawyers will manipulate my clients, I tell them the hard truth. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to a lawyer when their cases will not win, clients can use their hard-earned money to create a life in the U.S. and help their family members abroad,” Galadriel says. In recent months, she’s also experienced antisemitic hostility on campus at Columbia, where she’s in school. “In the face of such discrimination, I choose to ignore the antisemitic rhetoric that my peers post on social media, say in front of the media, and chant in the streets,” she wrote. “It is a refreshing breath of fresh air and empowering for me to help other people in their hour of need. I know that when I do this, I am sticking to Jewish principles that compel me to perform Tikkun Olam when I see inequalities in the world.”

Frank Bergstein Award for Bravery: Terrisenia Denham 

Frank Bergstein was the son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, and grew up in South Avondale, here in Cincinnati. After attending Harvard University, he enlisted in the U.S. Army amidst the Nazi threat in Europe. He was selected for Officer Candidate School, and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant. He was promoted to First Lieutenant, and was assigned to the 115th Regimental Command Team of the 29th Infantry Division. On June 6, 1944– D-Day—he bravely led his platoon onto the shores of Omaha beach. It was his first combat command, and following the invasion, his platoon liberated towns throughout France, Belgium and Germany, during 91 days of almost continuous combat  

Terrisenia Denham exhibited extraordinary bravery by rescuing three people from a burning vehicle after it exploded outside her home. A man and his two grandsons, ages 6 months and 6 years old, survived because of her heroism. Despite having seven children and eight grandchildren of her own, Terrisenia did not hesitate to enter the engulfed vehicle to save the children, staying by their side throughout the ordeal and demonstrating profound courage and selflessness. She is inspired by the notion that it “takes a village” to make the community a better place to live. 

Henry Meyer Award for Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence: David Morse

Henry Meyer was born in 1923 to a musically inclined German-Jewish family, but Meyer’s early dreams of becoming a professional musician were dashed by the rise of Nazi power. During years of Nazi persecution, he endured arrests, deportations, and the loss of loved ones in the Holocaust. Miraculously saved from the brink of death in Auschwitz, Meyer’s musical talent became his saving grace as he was enlisted into the camp orchestra, providing a glimmer of hope amidst unimaginable horror. Surviving  a death march, Meyer ultimately found refuge in the United States, where he pursued his passion for music with unwavering determination. As a founding member of the renowned LaSalle Quartet and a professor of music at the University of Cincinnati for over 25 years, Meyer’s resilience and commitment to his craft serve as a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the power of art to shine light in the face of adversity and darkness. 

David Morse is a choreographer, musician, and Artistic Collaborator at the Cincinnati Ballet. His distinguished 15-year career in dance includes roles with notable choreographers and a diverse and nationally recognized choreographic repertoire. Notably, he created “Our Story,” a ballet that acts as a living memorial to Holocaust victims and highlights the importance of recognizing one another’s humanity and the rejection of hate. As he was choreographing the piece, David immersed himself in the history, even taking it upon himself to visit Eastern Europe. The piece debuted at the opening of the Holocaust & Humanity Center’s museum at Union Terminal and was performed in its entirety as part of the Cincinnati Ballet’s Bold Moves Festival in 2022, and it will return as part of the Ballet’s upcoming season this fall. David says, “What inspires me to give back and make a difference in the community is the profound belief that the arts can serve as a powerful catalyst for change.”

Rochel Boymel Award for Love: Rosemary Oglesby-Henry

In the 1920s, Rochel Boymel raised 4 children by herself in Turszysk, Poland, a city located in Ukraine today, after her husband died at a young agecleaning homes and doing laundry to keep food on the table. Life changed dramatically after the Nazis invaded Russia. Every Jew was required to wear a Star of David on their clothing, and a ghetto was created. Then, in August of 1942, when her youngest son Sam was 17 years old, Rochel, her family and the rest of the town’s Jewish community were rounded up by the Germans and told them they were being relocated to another city to work. But as they arrived on the outskirts of town, it became clear that they were being sent to their deaths. Staring down her own mortality, Rochel’s final act was one of motherly love. “Get some long pants, take my sweater, I don’t want you to catch a cold,” she told Sam. Run my child.” Sam narrowly escaped into a nearby forest, and survived the rest of the war fighting as a Partisan. 

Rosemary Oglesby-Henry is a social entrepreneur who brings together people combining faith, a strong work ethic, and leadership strategies to change the outlook for teen parents, women, black girls and girls of color, and her community. After her own personal experiences with teen motherhood, Rosemary founded Rosemary’s Babies Co., advocating for maternal rights for teen parents and supporting their journeys as mothers. She credits her faith as her guiding force, saying, “If we activate in kindness and love it truly changes everything.” 

Conrad Wiener Award for Love of Learning: Lamont Ragan

Conrad Wiener’s journey began in a small town in Romania in 1938. His early years were marked by the horrors of World War II, as his family endured deportation to a forced labor camp in Transnistria, when he was just three and a half years old. Despite falling gravely ill during his time in the camp, Conrad’s mother Adela refused to give up on him, nursing him back to health against all odds. Liberated by the Soviet Army in 1944, Conrad and his family returned to Romania, only to face the challenges of living in a Communist regime. In 1960, they immigrated to the United States, where Conrad later served in the U.S. Army and pursued his education. A graduate of Indiana University and the University of Cincinnati, Conrad settled in Cincinnati in 1963. Conrad’s love of learning was fueled by a passion to educate young people about history, so he became a substitute teacher, teaching for many years at schools all around southern Ohio, and joining the Holocaust & Humanity Center’s Coppel Speakers Bureau

Lamont Ragan is a true leader in supporting the most vulnerable children in the West End. As the founder of the nonprofit, West End Elite Royals Academies & Athletic Club, he offers free access for kids to sports year-round, including providing equipment and uniforms. Teaching them core values, the organization requires children to participate in five hours of tutoring or after-school educational programming each week. He says his drive comes from personal experience. “I wanted to help prevent the crime cycle that continues to destroy our beautiful city,” he says. “I have seen firsthand how kids can get mixed up into the life of crime, mainly because they can’t afford sports and after-school activities.” 

Frank Gerson Award for Creativity: Emily and Mark Kendall 

In 1971, Frank Gerson was working at a City of Cincinnati incinerator when he noticed something troubling: perfectly good items like furniture, clothes, and even food were being needlessly destroyed. This seemed wasteful, especially in a community where many struggled to meet basic needs. Unlike most, Frank didn’t just shake his head and move on. Instead, he took action. With a clear vision and tireless energy, he started the Free Store, a creative and simple but powerful solution to redistribute these salvaged goods to those who could use them. This small act of kindness grew into the Freestore Foodbank, the preeminent organization in our community fighting hunger and meeting basic needs today.

Emily and Mark Kendall are the co-founders of EmpowerMe Living. After successful careers in commercial real estate, Emily and Mark are now on a mission to change the housing landscape for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Emily and Mark are inspired by “our love for our three brave, resilient children: Emma who was born at 29 weeks; Luke who has Down syndrome; and Grace who has cerebral palsy; and a desire to make the world a better place not just for them but for all of us.” Just like Frank– their creativity allowed them to see a challenge as an opportunity to help others. 

Roma Kaltman and Rozalia Berke Award for Hope: North College Hill City Schools

Roma and Rozalia were sisters who were living in Lodz,  Poland when the Germans invaded. It wasn’t long before the Nazis forced the sisters along with their family to leave their homes and relocate to the Lodz  Ghetto.  In August of 1944, the two sisters were rounded up along with other Jews and deported to Auschwitz. Once there, they came across a woman named Danka that they knew from before the war Danka had arrived in Auschwitz earlier than Roma and Rozalia. After losing her own sister in the camp, Danka had lost her will to live. Roma and Rozalia saved their friend Danka from throwing herself on the electrified barbed wireby offering a glimpse of hope and inviting her to be their sister. The three survived the rest of the war together—and remained sisters for the rest of their lives.   

When the Joe Burrow Foundation, Interact For Health, and bI3 put out the call to area high schools—offering seed funding for activities that commemorate World Teen Mental Wellness Day — students and staff from 54 schools stepped up in a big way by hosting events and activities promoting mental health—events that offered hope while breaking down the stigma for those struggling with mental health challenges.  Representing the participating schools from across the region is North College Hill City Schools, where students and school staff hosted a mental wellness fair. Throughout the day-long event, they distributed information about mental health resources, promoted coping skills, and engaged students in discussions about mental health. 

John Dolibois Award for Fairness: Tyra Patterson

John was 12 years in 1931 old when his family immigrated to Akron, Ohio from Luxembourg. After college, he was drafted, eventually training in military intelligence at Camp Ritchie, Maryland before tasked with interrogating high-ranking Nazi war criminals. While stationed in his home country of Luxembourg, Dolibois visited Dachau only two days after its liberation and was assigned to work with the Nazi War Crimes Commission on the Nuremberg Trials. After the war, Dolibois became the Vice President of University Relations and created the John E. Dolibois European Center of Miami University in Luxembourg. In the mid-1980s, he became the ambassador to Luxembourg under the Reagan administration. 

On December 25, 2017, Tyra Patterson walked out of prison after serving 23 years for crimes she did not commit. Now, through her work as a Community Outreach Strategist at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center and as a motivational speaker, artist, activist, and mentor, Tyra advocates for fair treatment of all individuals, especially marginalized black women affected by mass incarceration. Tyra says, “I have the ability to see beauty in everything and everyone because when I was at the lowest parts of my life, I had to see beauty in myself when others didn’t or couldn’t. I don’t mind pushing the envelope and being an agitator if it means making people feel seen and heard.” 

The Cohen Family Cincinnati Upstander Weekend is presented by Duke Energy, the Mayerson Family Foundation, Cincinnati Museum Center, and Procter & Gamble. 

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The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center exists to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust inspire action today. Located at Cincinnati’s historic Union Terminal, HHC impacts more than 2.5 million people every year through digital and in-person events, museum tours, educational experiences, social media, and virtual content. From Australia to India, individuals from more than 25 countries and 30 states engage with our mission. For more information, visit www.holocaustandhumanity.org